ETHIOPIAN ENTERPRISE WINS HANDSOMELY IN HONG KONG
Some shrewd investing by Ethiopians Feyera Gemeda and Rehima Kedir paid off handsomely when they won the men's and women's Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon this morning (), netting $65,000 each in the process.
Neither was on the list of official invitees, but they wagered over a thousand dollars each on air fares from their base in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, to the Chinese Special Administrative Region. Not for nothing is this area known as an enterprise zone. The Ethiopians' initiative yielded the sort of profit you don't see much on the stock market nowadays.
Neither had raced in Hong Kong before, so with defending men's champion, Julius Maisei on Kenya sounding confident of an unprecedented second successive men's victory here, Gemeda bided his time near the head of a group of over twenty that went through halfway in a very slow 70 minutes.
Speaking through an interpreter, Gemeda said, "I was waiting for Maisei to push the pace, to see how last year's winner would go; and there were some others there who had faster times than my personal best. But it was never too fast, and I was able to go to the front myself a couple of times. Then when we got to 37k, I saw I could win".
By this point the group had been whittled down to five, with Maisei still trying to impress himself on the others. But when Gemeda accelerated with five kilometres to go, Maisei was the first to drop off the leading group. He said afterwards, "I thought I could become to the first man to win twice, and I tried. But my muscles tied up at the end, and they were too strong for me today". He finished fifth, to add to his first, second and fourth in previous years.
In the meantime, the race had devolved into a scrap between two Ethiopians, Gemeda and Bedada Abdisa Sori, and two other Kenyans, Elisha Kiprop and Willy Kibor. But Gemeda was not to be denied, He sped away over the remaining four kilometres, running the second half of the race five minutes faster than the first, to win in 2.15.05, with Bedada Abdisa second in 2.15.11, one second ahead of Kibor.
"Financially, this is my best result ever," said Gemeda, "but my personal best is not fast enough (2.11.45 in Toulouse five months ago), I want to run faster elsewhere. I'll help my family with this money, but I'll also use it to take care of myself, and prepare well to run fast somewhere. I didn't prepare specially for this race, but if the organisers invite me back next year, to defend, I'll make sure I'll well prepared".
Kedir took the women's title for her second marathon victory in a row, following a win in Beirut last November. And she too had to beat the defending champion, fellow Ethiopian Misiker Mekonnin, who was going for a hat trick of wins; and failed to by just twelve seconds to do so. Mekonnin said, "I felt OK for 20k, but then I tired, and couldn't reply when Rehima took the lead".
Nevertheless, Kedir wasn't confident of victory until the closing stages. "I could feel my hamstring pulling at 32k, but it didn't get any worse, and at 41k, I felt I could win. But before the race, I didn't think I had any chance; there were several women with faster times than me. I'd like to run a race like Boston next, but I'd be very happy to come back to Hong Kong next year". With another pay-off like that in prospect, who wouldn't?
Kedir won in 2.34.53, with Mekonnin second in 2.35.05, and a third Ethiopian, Shitaye Gemechu third in 2.35.18. On one of the most temperate days in race history, over 60,000 people took to the streets in the various races, with the overall prize money rising to $300,000.
1 Feyera GEMEDA ETH 2.15.05
2 Bedada ABDISA ETH 2.15.11
3 Elisha KIPROP KEN 2.15.12
4 Willy KIBOR KEN 2.15.30
5 Julius MAISEI KEN 2.15.45
6 Gebremeskel HAFTU ETH 2.16.27
7 Luke KIBET KEN 2.16.42
8 Paul KATISA KEN 2.16.49
9 Soloman MOLLA ETH 2.16.55
10 David BARMASAI KEN 2.16.55
1 Rehima KEDIR ETH 2.34.53
2 Misiker MEKONNIN ETH 2.35.05
3 Shitaye GEMECHU ETH 2.35.18
4 Emily CHEPKEMOI KEN 2.35.56
5 Ruth MATEBOR KEN 2.37.34
6 Woynishet GIRMA ETH 2.38.29
7 Viola BOR KEN 2.40.21
8 Margaret TOROITICH/KEN 2.41.22
9 LI Suyun CHI 2.42.15
10 Gulzhanat ZHANATBEK/KAZ 2.45.05